May 13, 2011

Attempts to amend or "fix" CPSIA move forward in Congress under HR __ “Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA).”

Things move pretty slowly in congress. This has been about the 15th "bill" (or attempted bill or amendment or other "maneuver") to try an amend/fix the dreaded Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act "CPSIA" which quite frankly looked much more harmless in 2008. That was before the recession and before the Consumer Product Safety Commission "CPSC" started taking a close look at CPSIA and spitting out thousands of pages of regulations and other documents in trying to wrestle with its draconian requirements. This is just the latest attempt to ameliorate some of the more problematic provisions of the 2008 CPSIA. As you can well imagine trying to get the attention of Congress these days is not too easy. And it's a very hostile political environment these days. News of increased regulation usually sounds good in TV sound bites by politicians, but when you get down to the really ugly nitty gritty its not very pretty (especially if you are the company that has to comply). And worse, you end up with hundreds of laws and regulations with huge penalties...all of which can be applied (or interpreted) in an "uneven" fashion to say the least by some regulatory bureaucrat who decides he or she does not like your company's attitude. You see the problem. And its really hard on "small" businesses. Companies like Mattel and Wal Mart hire teams of people to assist with regulatory compliance work and have the clout to force their smaller suppliers to bear the risk of non compliance. Small(er) businesses do not.

Hats off to the Bicycle Products Suppliers Association (BPSA) for really trying to stay on top of this. Without a full time lobbyist in congress its really hard to know when things are going to happen or not happen on a given day. And unfortunately, to be effective, you have to know before Congress acts not after. The motorcycle / ATV industry is also working hard on this as are a number of other industries heavily impacted by CPSIA. The fact is these days if you don't work really hard at getting your voice heard in Congress (and that means yelling really loud with lots of well reasoned voices) you are going to get rolled over. Its unfortunate that more attention was not paid to this law well before it passed in August 2008.

The April 7, 2011 testimony before The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade by the BPSA is good to read first just as background for what we were seeking. And this is the the May 10, 2011 version of the “Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA)” along with some opening comments, markups and amendments made May 12, 2011. Obviously you don't get everything you ask for. Section 9 is of interest as it affects the now infamous "consumer products safety information database" which just rolled out in March 2011. Some of these fixes will be helpful but I fear we will need to go a year or so with the database before we begin to see even more problems that need fixing once again via Congress of course. I had to chuckle a bit when I read this article dealing with the new "CPSC like" agency regulating banks. Apparently banks don't like public complaint databases either. I guess misery loves company.

Press Release
Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Votes to Improve Consumer Product Safety Law

May 12, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade took an important step to improve consumer product safety protections today by approving the discussion draft of H.R. ___,(bill number yet to be attached) “Enhancing CPSC Authority and Discretion Act of 2011 (ECADA).”

The draft legislation, which passed the subcommittee by voice vote, would revise the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), seeking to reduce the regulatory burdens of the current law while maintaining consumer protection. The proposal calls for greater flexibility for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to regulate based on risk.

“While CPSIA has many virtues, there are some unintended consequences of the law as well. Our common sense reforms will help to make a good law even better, saving thousands of American jobs in the process and providing our children with the important protections they need,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA). “This was a careful balancing act, but even the Consumer Product Safety Commission has recognized the problems with CPSIA and requested greater flexibility in implementing the new law.”

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